Northern Michigan University’s head coach Walt Kyle said that playing good teams makes you tighten up your game and prevent mistakes after Friday night’s 4-1 loss to Minnesota State Mankato.
The Wildcats took those words to heart as they capitalized twice on the power play to tie the No. 3 Mavericks in the second game of their hockey series.
“Way different than last night, way harder effort,” said Kyle. “We made some lineup changes tonight with an emphasis on guys who were going to play and guys who were going to compete, and I thought our leadership was great and we did compete.”
DJ Vandercook, Casey Purpur and Justin Rose got the start for the game while some of the other players were given the night off after the disappointing loss. The line combined for four shots on goal and -1 rating.
“I give that line a lot of credit. They were good all week,” Kyle said. “I told those guys that there was an opportunity that they were going to get in this weekend. Purpur won faceoffs tonight, (Rose) did a good job managing the puck, (Vandercook) had some opportunities — they played hard, they fore checked, they did the things we wanted them to do.”
MSU scored first on a power play goal from JP Lafontaine. But a five minute major for interference by Brett Knowles gave an extended power play for the home time. Northern was able to equalize as Mitch Jones hit his second goal of the year.
The second period started off slow, with just a few back-and-forth stretches and a combined seven shots on goal for the two teams in the first 14:21. However a slashing penalty by Bryce Gervais put the Wildcats on the man advantage.
Dominic Shine used the power play to tie the game with a snipe from three steps inside the blue line. Brock Maschmeyer and Gerard Hanson assisted on the goal.
It looked like Northern Michigan was going to have a chance to take the lead when Minnesota State’s Dylan Margonari checked Joseph Manno from behind with 37 seconds left in regulation. Margonari received a major and a game misconduct, so the Wildcats had the man advantage for the majority of overtime. Unfortunately the home team couldn’t find the back of the net.
NMU wasn’t happy with the tie, but was happier with the output on the ice compared to the first game in the series.
“We played hard, we can compete with anyone,” said Jones. “They’re a really good team who’s ranked first in the nation (in Pairwise ranking), so we competed pretty hard with them tonight.”
Northern had three players lead in shots with three each. Bryce Gervais led the way offensively for the Mavericks, with five shots on goal.
Michael Doan was in net again for the Wildcats, making 24 saves. Stephon Williams got the start in net for the Mavericks, stopping 20 in the tie.
Northern Michigan is now 8-6-4 overall and sit fifth in the WCHA at 5-6-3. Minnesota State takes the WCHA lead after Michigan Tech played a non-conference series against Wisconsin this weekend.
The ‘Cats will face off against those arch rival Huskies in a home-and-home series Jan. 9-10. They’ll play at home on Jan. 9 at 7:07 p.m. and play in Houghton on Jan. 10 at 7:37 p.m.. Both games will be broadcast locally on FOX UP.